Haleema Khan (a name used in this story to preserve her anonymity) is a health management expert who is head of the secretariat in a prestigious hospital in Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city. Efficient, professional and confident, one would never guess that Khan reached the heights of success by starting from the lowest rung of the ladder.
Khan grew up in a shanty town in the backwaters of Karachi, where she was born to parents who suffered from leprosy. This concentration of humble dwellings was home to the outcasts of society, and Khan, who had never contracted the disease herself, inherited a lowly status by virtue of her parentage. The stigma attached to leprosy has haunted her all her life (and is why she was reluctant to reveal her identity for this story). Read on
Three years ago, when Truthdig invited me to write an article on “How the women of Pakistan cope” for its newly launched Global Voices Project, it was a challenge for me. I wished to show the readers a face of Pakistani women that does not generally figure in the global media. They are the women who do not in the normal course create a sensation. But in their quiet way they are the change-makers.
The relaunch of Truthdig offers me the opportunity to take another look at the situation of women in Pakistan. Has it changed?
First, let us redefine the dichotomy in the women’s situation in Pakistan in terms of their achievements. The two classes I spoke about in my earlier article still exist: We still have a small, privileged class of the haves, and there is also the huge, underprivileged class of the have-nots. The world fails to recognise Pakistani women through this perspective. Read on
THE reading habit needs to start being cultivated in early childhood through stories of fantasy, fairy tales and folk sagas as these ignite the imagination and the curiosity of children. Every culture and every language has its own heritage of such stories. And so does Urdu. However, what was missing was biographies of renowned people written for younger readers in Urdu.
The Oxford University Press is now filling in this gap by bringing out a few series devoted to the genre. Under the series Azeem Pakistani and Tasveeri Kahani Silsila, biographies of notable figures highlighting their contributions to the country have been published. Roshni kay Meenar is the third series focusing on biographies of prominent personalities of Sindh who have made valuable contributions either before Partition or since. The three biographies published earlier under this series presented the lives and works of Mirza Qaleech Baig, Hasan Ali Effendi and Ruth Pfau. Continue reading Syed Adibul Hasan Rizvi: Book Review→
IS the world really waking up to the population crisis that received a lot of international publicity at the London Summit on Family Planning last week? One wishes it were. But all the noise seems to be emanating from the developed states which have managed their own demographic affairs very well while generously supporting the Third World countries’ population programmes. Their success is to be attributed mainly to their strategy of working honestly within a holistic socioeconomic framework.
Unfortunately, developing countries, which are the biggest contributors to the galloping global population growth and that have restricted resources, have shown a poor record. According to the UN, the current world population stands at 7.6 billion and is expected to be 8.6bn by 2030 and 9.8bn in 2050. The world has roughly 83 million new mouths to feed every year. Continue reading How we grow→
FOUZIA is 13 and is employed by a working mother of two children. Fouzia is the victim of oppression on three counts. She performs the duties of an adult woman, which would be classified as child labour. She is not attending school as is compulsory for children from five to 16 years of age under Article 25-A of the Constitution.
Above all, she will soon be another example of early marriage as she is said to be engaged. The wedding will take place as soon as she has earned enough for her dowry. In the process, Fouzia has been robbed of her childhood and an education.
These deprivations do not bother this young girl’s family. Their sociocultural norms and, according to many, poverty have landed her in this ugly situation. According to Unesco, from 1987 to 2005, early marriage was the fate of nearly 32 per cent of all children in Pakistan. Continue reading No child’s play→
WHEN you start to despair — and we have too many occasions for that — go get the light of hope from someone who holds the candle. So I went to see Dr Ruth Pfau, who has been an inspiration for many, especially the most stigmatised of segments — her leprosy patients.
Even in her poor state of health in her hospital bed, Dr Pfau continues to be the candle of hope she has epitomised. She was hospitalised recently but is now in her own apartment in her neat and prim clinic. Of course, she is happy to be back home, she told me.
As I held her hand I could feel the “enrichment flow from her into me” to use her words. That is the role she has been playing since she arrived as a young woman of 31 in Karachi from Germany in 1960 and made Pakistan her home. It was chance that took her to the Lepers’ Colony behind the commercial offices on McLeod Road (now I.I. Chundrigar Road). The squalor and subhuman conditions did not deter her. Within three years, she had set up a proper leprosy clinic, now an eight-storey hospital on Shahrah-i-Liaquat, and the hub of 157 leprosy centres all over the country. There followed an arduous journey of over five decades devoted to “serving the unserved”. At no stage has her commitment slackened. Continue reading Candle of hope→
“THERE has been an enormous overproduction of uneducated and ill-trained medical practitioners … due to the existence of a very large number of commercial (medical) schools … which are profitable business.”
Does the above refer to Pakistan? It doesn’t but it could as it is an apt description of the conditions prevailing in the country. The words above are from Abraham Flexner’s 1910 report on the state of medical education in North America. It led to the closing down of 124 of the 155 medical schools operating in the US and Canada at the time. Continue reading Where the ill lies→
THE existential threat that Pakistan faces today is the insidious devastation of our human resources. It is a silent crisis, yet to be recognised, as an entire generation of children faces a slow death by malnutrition.
Denied basic nutrients — especially protein — essential for their physical and cognitive growth in the critical first 1,000 days of life, the majority of children never enjoy the same health and mental growth as that of a normal well-fed child. Paediatricians tell us that the damage done during this window of life — from conception till the second birthday — cannot be reversed. We have been warned, but nothing stirs us out of our complacency. Continue reading The magic crop→
TODAY I am writing this while waiting for my turn for physiotherapy for my right hand carpal tunnel syndrome. I had been having severe pain that became worst on twisting movements and pulling or bearing weight on this hand. First I took a painkiller regularly without any benefit then kept on complaining about pain and was scolded by my mother and elder sister to consult a doctor and not to treat myself. I got all my lab investigations done which came out to be normal ( CP, ESR, CRP, uric acid, RA factor and T3, T4, TSH and the x-ray of my wrist). I was convinced that it was carpal tunnel syndrome as I previously got a persistent parasthesia on my right hand so I got an appointment with my teacher, Professor of neurology, Dr. Abdullah, who endorsed my diagnosis and sent me to this amazing physiotherapy Center named “Neurology & Falij care Center”! He advised me to get my physiotherapy done by the specific lady physiotherapist. So it’s my third session today and I do the exercises advised by her regularly at home multiple times. I hope and pray that improvement will come soon. Continue reading Physician let a colleague treat you→
IN a society as morally perverse and corrupt as ours, does a centre of ethics have any relevance? A cynic’s answer would be a resounding ‘none whatsoever’. The idealist/reformer would say, ‘all the more’. That is a dilemma that faces all activists in this country seeking to light the spark of change.
In this context, the SIUT’s Centre for Biomedical Ethics and Culture (CBEC) faces a daunting challenge. It has been struggling for the last 13 years to introduce an ethical perspective not just in healthcare but also in the non-medical sector. Its endeavours became meaningful and received international recognition when last week WHO declared the CBEC a Collaborating Centre for Bioethics — one of the eight to receive that prestigious status worldwide. Continue reading Right vs wrong→